HELP! My Toddler Won't Share!

Isn't this a common problem we all face with our toddlers and little people? Sharing is a big concept for them to grasp, and it can be frustrating for us as parents when they just don't get it and play dates with friends turn into chaos!

This pretty much sums up my daughter...

(image credit + a great article about toddler sharing)

It goes without saying, that Miss M has had some HUGE changes happen this month with the introduction of her new baby brother - so we know we need to be understanding and patient with her. And little people tend to have very BIG emotions and don't quite know how to process them yet. We've just had so many visitors to the house lately and Miss M has not coped as well as we would have hoped.

Having said that, play dates at our house for the past year have been quite stressful, to the point where she will literally not let visiting children touch ANYTHING in the house. It's just a bit ridiculous. I see her get anxious and so upset, escalating into an extraordinary tantrum because someone is playing with something that belongs to her - it doesn't matter what the toy is.

Here's what we've tried...
  • Rewarding/praising her those times when she does do the right thing and plays nicely (usually not at our house)
  • Bribing her with her a prize from her prize box (this hardly ever works because inevitably she won't play nicely and then she's upset when she doesn't get a prize)
  • Putting her special toys away in her bedroom (although apparently EVERYTHING is a special toy).
  • Telling her that her bedroom can be a quiet place just for her if she gets overwhelmed (doesn't work).
  • Using a timer app on my phone to take turns if they both want the same toy (sometimes works at other people's houses)
  • Getting out a 'baby' toy box for children younger than her to play with (this one works with visiting children who are not yet mobile and want to go exploring!)
It's not all bad though - she'll gladly share her trampoline she got for Christmas. Thank goodness for that!

So I put the call out to some parenting blogger friends to see if anyone had any advice or links to help me out!


I don't have any posts specifically but I do remember when Immy went through a similar phase we used to talk about our guests before they arrived and together we would set out some toys that our guest might like to play with. I would also invite Immy to put away any special toys that she didn't want others to touch. She still had moments but the preparation and sense of control seemed to help a little.
Maybe just a pep talk before people come over that it is kind to share toys with friends who visit, when she visits others she can play with their toys too. Then let her put away "precious toys" that she really doesn't want others to play with. My kids put away Lego that they don't want broken into bits.

Cindy has also written this article Why I don't teach my kids to share where she explains the benefits of using language such as 'take turns' and 'wait' rather than a toy being taken from one child and given to another.

Hey Lauren, just a thought about an idea to try since you said she doesn't like others touching her things. What if you took her to an op shop to buy some toys for guests to play with and keep them in a special basket for when they come over...

Nadia from City Mum - Rural Life wrote this post Sharing and Turn Taking: Why Your Child Must Learn These Skills. She talks about sharing and turn taking as an act of kindness and to encourage our children to be kind and considerate community members, and that it's better to give rather than receive. She also suggests the strategy of putting away the favourite toys, and if a meltdown eventuates from toys that were left out, explaining to the child that they chose to leave those toys out meaning they must be shared. 

Erin from Bambini Travel has twins and shared her Thoughts on Toddler Sharing here. She reiterated the fact that it's important for the children to have ownership over special possessions that are just for them, but on the other hand need to develop turn taking skills when playing with other siblings. 

Deborah from Mommy Crusader wrote this article - Helping Young Children Learning Socialization Skills with lots of great suggestions such as modelling the desired behaviour, organising play dates at a friends house rather than your own and focusing on and supporting your child's needs when they are having social difficulties.

Finally here are two great articles by Janet Lansbury (Toddlers Learning to Share and Share... Wait your Turn... Don't Touch... Playdate rules that limit learning.) I found these articles really useful. Some key points from the first article include; being a 'sportscast' rather than placing blame, the value in self learned lessons, be patient, and it probably looks worse to us as parents that it actually is. And the second article; it might be better to allow the children to work it out themselves and observe how the situation evolves rather than immediately stepping in and separating them, a toddler's possessiveness is a normal phase.


Then I turned to my trusty March Mums Facebook group for their advice.

  • It's really important for him to know he will get a turn again and they aren't going to take it forever. 
I read something once about us adults having unreal expectation of our toddlers and their ability to comprehend sharing. It spoke of putting ourselves in our kids shoes and how we would feel if we were told we had to share our car or our house etc. 
I notice that as soon as I say 'you can have it when whoever has finished', that half the time the possessiveness over the toy ceases and he just moves on. 
  • I mention sharing if I see sharing happening. So if he's playing and voluntarily gives up a toy another child wants, or purposely offers his toy up. I'd say 'that's great sharing' or something along those lines (so he is being made aware of sharing).
  • Infants are super egocentric and it takes time for them to see things from others perspectives so I think it's a mix of caregivers having realistic expectations and persistent good role modelling.
  • Sharing shouldn't translate to 'you have to give up the toy your playing with because someone else wants it', that's not sharing and that's not a helpful lesson for either child.
 I am cautious about the 'children this age can't take turns' idea, I don't think there is a switch that turns on at some age and all of a sudden they know how to share/take turns. I think it is a learned behaviour, perhaps our kids aren't old enough to learn it yet but I think it is still something we should be modelling, encouraging and helping them to do so that when they are able to get it they have seen the desired behaviour.
 Even if our children can't learn this yet I do think we need to help our children with strategies to 'coexist' with other children for the wellbeing of everyone.

Thank you March mummies and mummy bloggers for your advice. I'll keep everyone updated how we go... Are threenagers any better at this than terrible two year olds? ;)


Linking up with Jess for #IBOT. First time of 2016 for me!


  1. Hi Lauren, oh how I understand this. It's hard when the little ones do not have the understanding nor the 'adult' concepts we'd like them to display. It is a "stage" HA. Of course it is, but that doesn't help you right now. I liked how many people you consulted and there were some good ideas. What has happened to your dear daughter is that she has been 'usurped' in some's not being unkind to you, just pointing out that from 'only' and 'special' to sharing this wee person everyone is fascinated by him. It will be will be fine..but take a little pressure off you as everyone who has kids understands this! truly. Denyse #teamIBOT!

    1. Thanks for visiting Denyse and for your advice. You are right that our friends who visit are very understanding - as we've all been there!

  2. oh I have no advice for you. My girl is only 15months and has no desire to share anything, in fact she wants everything everyone else has even if she doesn't really want it. I'm sure your daughter will learn to share in time, not that it helps you now. Let me know if you find any hot tips!

    1. There's challenges at every age and stage isn't there Lu! I've been telling myself all last year that she would get there in time, and although there are areas in which she has dates at our house are still stressful instead of enjoyable!!

  3. Mr 6 is an only child and I find that we still struggle with this sometimes as he just isn't used to having to share his things with other kids. We found his biggest issue was that he thought the child was going to take the toy home with them. So explaining gently to him that it was still his toy and that his friend was having a turn really helped with that. As they get older though you have the issue of younger children not being as careful with toys too. That's where putting away special toys comes in handy.

    1. Hi Tegan, as you say Miss M is definitely not used to it - probably my fault in avoiding inviting people over because of this issue, she hasn't had the chance to practise sharing in her own home... Hopefully now with a sibling she'll get better!

  4. You know I feel you on this! We throw up little challenges to Miss L, an only child, just to keep it in her mind; "Can I have one of your sultanas?" etc. and praising her when she does share. Sometimes she's stroppy and doesn't want a bar of it. We don't have many young kids over so most of her interaction would be at daycare where I'm sure it's handled properly.

    1. Hey Beth, you lovely regular commenter you! Miss M is fine at CC too - she's just too possessive over her own things at home, which I guess is understandable. I'll just tell myself 'this too shall pass'. Looking forward to the age when she realises it's actually FUN to play with other children and have a friend come over!! xx

  5. My kids have had moments, but it was never a really issue. I think sharing really comes down to placing value upon another person, as opposed to having ownership over an object. If you can teach your kids how it's important to share because it makes other people feel great, then it becomes a much different. Ultimately, people are much more important than things, so I've always promoted the importance of treating others well.

  6. I am a preschool teacher and I teach 2 year olds. So sharing is a huge topic in my class. One thing I have learned is to take the student explain to them way sharing is important. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work. I have one particular student who is having a little issue with sharing. When he does not get what he wants he results in biting and hitting. One of the major issue that is contributing to his behavior is the new baby. The parent has come to me and ask for my advice on how to handle this type of situation. I have explained to her, giving him the attention he is looking for is important. Also, getting him involved with his new brother is a major plus. When he is at school I always remind him sharing is caring. It takes time for them to understand sharing is important, but being patient and constantly remind them the good that comes with sharing.

    1. Hello preschool teacher! Thanks so much for sharing your stories and advice on sharing. Luckily my daughter doesn't bite or hit - snatching/shouting is the main anti-social behaviour she's showing at the moment. Hopefully in time she'll get there :)


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